Alex Ross

“One day in 1948 or 1949, the Brentwood County Mart, a shopping complex in an upscale neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, was the scene of a slight disturbance that carried overtones of the most spectacular upheaval in twientieth-century music. Marta Feuchtwanger, wife of émigré novelist Lion Feuchtwanger, was examining grapefruit in the produce section when she heard a voice shouting German from the far end of the aisle. She looked up to see Arnold Schoenberg, the pioneer of atonal music and the codifier of twelve-tone composition, bearing down on her, with his bald pate and burning eyes. Decades later, in conversation with the writer Lawrence Weschler, Feuchtwanger could recall every detail of the encounter, including the weight of the grapefruit in her hand. “Lies, Frau Marta, lies!” Schoenberg was yelling. “You have to know, I never had syphilis!”


Alex Ross
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